Common problems when planning subdivisions in NZ (Nov 19)

How do I subdivide my land?

Subdivision planning on rural land is becoming a much more complex process as the years pass by.  It is not just about protecting the productivity of our land.  There is an expectation, at least from some, that the rural landscape will remain unchanged.  In reality, with changing land use forced upon us by the global economy, that position is unrealistic. As is often said, ‘the only thing that is certain is change’.

As a means of controlling the effects (and perceived effects) of subdivision, local councils have a District Plan which sets out many rules controlling subdivision planning.  These rules are reviewed every ten years and continue to get tougher as the country develops further. 

Because subdivision is something that people don’t do that often, we get involved right at the start when we are asked “how to subdivide my land?”.  Since we have carried out many subdivisions over the years in many local council districts, we generally have a very good idea.  However, since rules are changing often and since every piece of land has a different history and landform, we need to research both the legal title to the land and the District Plan. This document is a minefield of interrelated chapters covering minimum section areas and dimensions, land use allowed, landscape, ecological protection, vehicle access, house sites and construction of services – such as water, wastewater, power and phone.

Many of us remember how the Resource Management Act (RMA) was sold to us.  “You can do what you like, as long as the effects are mitigated”.  Well that sounded great at the time, until the list of effects was published. Unfortunately, this list continues to grow.  It seems that every time the RMA is overhauled – often on the pretence of streamlining - life gets harder in relation to resource consents for land development and subdividing.

The common problems when planning rural subdivisions these days include satisfying Council that any new house site proposed will not impact on natural landscape features, will protect archaeological and ecological features, and will not impact on the outlook of the general public or other people already occupying surrounding sites.  We must do this all whilst utilising a stable building site with safe access onto the road.  Juggling all these, and many more issues during the planning exercise, requires skill and experience to produce a quality economic subdivision design that will pass the scrutiny of Council and any affected persons.  Obtaining the resource consent from Council then requires significant patience on top of this.

If subdividing or adjusting boundaries are on your radar this year you should contact a professional surveying company to set you in the right direction.  It is a complex legal process and you need to get off on the right foot. Looking on Council’s web site or discussing with a duty planner at Council can clarify minimum section areas required but there is much more that they aren’t able to assess without a full professional application.  I am more than happy to discuss your opportunities for now and the future, so don't hesitate to give me a call. 

Brent Trail, Managing Director of Surveying Services, specialises in resource consent applications for subdivisions across the Coromandel, Waikato, and Bay of Plenty.  For further information call 0800 268 632 or email


Brent Trail

Managing Director

tel: 07 578 2500

cell: 027 499 3778


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